Friday, February 27, 2009

Adobe Time-Warps Half a Decade Back, Will Still Probably Defeat MSFT

Earlier this week, I went to see a couple of folks from Adobe present their latest progress on Flash Catalyst, Flex "Gumbo," and the "Spark" UI component framework.

As someone who does a bunch of Flex work, I liked everything I saw.

Especially since it was the second time around.

No, I didn't see this stuff at MAX, I saw it at Microsoft PDC in 2003 and 2005.

It was shocking how pleased Adobe seems with itself now that it's almost ready to release a design tool that generates XML and RIA code... since everything they showed -- and more -- was part of the earliest Microsoft Expression Blend alphas that I saw years ago.

The Microsoft product was code-named "Sparkle." But we won't get this confused with Adobe's "Spark" because (1) "Spark" refers to a different bit, Adobe's re-invention of lookless, templated controls, which Microsoft implemented in WPF and shared with the world at the time (around '04 or '05), and (2) because Expression Blend is already out in a 2.0 version, so unlike the Adobe products, it doesn't need a codename anymore.

Adobe even has yet another XML dialect to facilitate moving design assets through the workflow -- it's called "FXG." And it appears to supplement MXML quite well in specific areas, so that if you take MXML and add FXG, you get XAML. Not that XAML was de novo or anything -- the XUL and Java folks (desperate to stop writing Swing code) had been creating similar XML formats for a while. The Java community was especially fond of XML with tons of imperative programming constructs mixed in alongside data objects and calling it "simple and declarative." What XAML did was provide all the necessary power, while keeping it declarative.

Anyway ... Adobe should get credit for recognizing the right way to do this when they saw it. Namely, they realized which workflow tools were needed, embraced the idea of export from Photoshop and Illustrator to a vector markup with a visual editor with timelimes, and thence to an RIA build tool with a code-oriented IDE.

Now that they're finally getting this on track, Adobe is even more likely to trounce Microsoft in the RIA world. They have penetration numbers that MSFT can only dream of, and for a company that doesn't build real developer tools they're giving it the college try.

Which is kind of sad, since I believe Silverlight is a better technology with better language and tool support ... and not any less rather more open than Flash.

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